RCOT's call to prioritise rehabilitation letter image

MPs from across the UK’s political spectrum are backing the Royal College of Occupational Therapists’ (RCOT) call for Health Secretary Matt Hancock to prioritise rehabilitation for those affected by COVID-19.

In a letter to the Health Secretary, MPs have requested that people being discharged from hospitals should have timely access to personalised rehabilitation services. The letter explicitly states that those the needs of those suffering from non-coronavirus related conditions should not be compromised as a result of the increase in COVID-19 rehabilitation needs.

It also highlights the needs of the 1.5 million people who have been asked to shield from COVID-19 for the initial 12-week period, who will be unable to access rehabilitation in conventional ways, will need new support.

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This call for the UK Government to prioritise rehabilitation comes as RCOT expects a ‘tidal wave’ of demand for rehabilitation services in the near future, which with increasing pressure due to COVID-19, could become impossible to manage without the right infrastructure and investment in place.

The letter reads: “The pandemic is already exposing the poor state of community rehabilitation provision, resulting from years of underfunding. The additional pressure created by the Covid-19 crisis may prove insurmountable without real investment.

“There will undoubtedly be a tsunami of rehabilitation needs as the country recovers from the pandemic. Can you confirm that the Government is urgently developing a strategy to guarantee the provision of these key services?”

The College is calling for more investment and action from the government to help the people who have had COVID-19, those that have existing rehabilitation needs and the people whose diagnoses and treatment has been delayed as a result of the pandemic.

To help make the case for rehabilitation, RCOT has been working closely with the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for health and wellbeing, Munira Wilson MP, alongside other MPs from Labour, the Conservative party, the SNP and the DUP.

RCOT Chief Executive Julia Scott said: “Rehabilitation is the word of the moment. As the UK gets to grips with the impact of COVID-19, we expect the demand on rehabilitation services will grow significantly and the UK will be faced with a tidal wave of need that the work of occupational therapists, physiotherapists and other key allied health professions will be at the forefront of and be uniquely placed to help with.

“It is fantastic to see parliamentarians from five political parties coming together to highlight the importance of rehabilitation. The Royal College is working closely with other professional bodies and charities on this matter, which just shows the breadth of support prioritising rehabilitation has in the health and care agenda.”

As well as recognising the rehabilitation needs of people affected by COVID-19, the letter also asks the government to put a strategy in place to expand the multidisciplinary rehabilitation workforce to deliver ongoing rehabilitation in the long-term, not just for the duration of the pandemic.

In addition, MPs are calling on the government to do more to protect the safety of occupational therapists and physiotherapists by ensuring access to personal protective equipment (PPE).

Munira Wilson, Liberal Democrat Health, Wellbeing and Social Care Spokesperson, commented: “For those who are gravely ill with COVID-19 but are fortunate to recover, a long period of rehabilitation is likely to be essential. Yet allied health professionals, including occupational therapists and physiotherapists, are already under massive pressure and face a mounting backlog of cases – many are deeply concerned about what lies ahead.

“That is why we are calling on ministers to make clear what steps are in place to further shore up this sector, and to recruit and retain the multidisciplinary workforce essential to delivering ongoing rehabilitation long term.”

Read the full letter here: https://www.rcot.co.uk/sites/default/files/Hancock%20cross-party%20rehab%20letter%20110520.pdf

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